ABC News is reporting that pioneering educator and activist Marva Collins has died. Collins started West Side Preparatory School in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood in 1975. She also founded a style of education that came to be known as the “Collins Method.”
The Collins Method focused on phonics, math, reading, English and the Classics. Collins life was the subject of a 1981 made-for-tv movie. The movie starred legendary actors Cicely Tyson, who played Collins and Morgan Freeman who played her husband Clarence. Tony Briscoe of the Chicago-Tribune writes:
Born Marva Knight in Alabama, Mrs. Collins graduated from Clark College, now Clark Atlanta University.
She moved to Chicago after graduation and took a position as a medical secretary. She later became a teacher in Chicago Public Schools, teaching second grade at Delano Elementary School on the Near West Side, her son said.
She became frustrated with the classroom approach at the public school, her son Patrick Collins said.
‘It was more playtime, less learning,’ he said. ‘So she cashed in her $5,000 teacher pension, moved her tenants out and taught out of the second floor of her own home. That was her vision.’
Under her guidance, Westside Preparatory School flourished and became nationally known for its success at taking children from impoverished neighborhoods who were often considered unteachable and turning them into solid students.”
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Collins declined an offer to serve as Secretary of Education during the Reagan administration and to serve as superintendent for Los Angeles Unified School District, deciding to stay where she felt most needed.
Legendary singer Prince was so impressed with Collins’ work that he donated $500,000 to her school in 1985. The entertainer and Collins maintained their friendship for years. Prince featured Collins in his music video ‘The Most Beautiful Girl,’ a song from his 1994 album, The Gold Experience.
Collins is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees including Dartmouth, Howard University, Notre Dame and Amherst College. In 2004, President George W. Bush awarded Collins, who was also an author of several books, the National Humanities Medal.
Collins is survived by her sons Patrick and Eric, sister Cynthia Sutton and mother Bessie Mae Johnson. She was preceded in death by her husband Clarence in 1995 and daughter Cynthia Collins.
The iconic educator died of natural causes on Wednesday while in hospice care in Beaufort County, S.C. She was 78.
Read more at the Chicago Tribune.
This post was written by Nsenga K. Burton, founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news blog, the Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual.